Chester Fitness Tests FAQ's

Fitness testing is now widely used in a variety of health and fitness scenarios and rehabilitation settings. Fitness tests are conducted for a variety of reasons – to establish baselines of fitness for individuals and communities, to use as a health risk indicator, to facilitate individualised exercise prescription, to monitor improvements in response to an exercise programme and to use as an educational and motivational tool promoting regular physical activity. Perhaps the most common fitness tests are those that assess cardiorespiratory fitness, or aerobic capacity (also termed VO2Max).

The classical method of measurement of cardiorespiratory fitness is by direct measurement of VO2Max, where the subject undergoes a maximal exercise test on a cycle or treadmill and oxygen consumption is measured directly. While this is the gold standard, the equipment is expensive, requires a high level of technical expertise and supervision, is impractical in non-laboratory and field situations and is unsuitable for those individuals for whom exhaustive exercise is not recommended. 

As a result, numerous tests have emerged for the estimation of aerobic capacity. Some are field tests requiring maximum effort (e.g. 20-metre Multistage Shuttle Run), while others are a submaximal treadmill, cycle or bench-stepping tests with a single-stage or multistage protocols. For a full review, see Heyward (2002)

The Chester Aerobic Fitness Tests are a series of three different modalities for the assessment of aerobic capacity: stepping, treadmill walking and cycle ergometry. 

Chester Step Test (CST) (Sykes 1998) is a submaximal, multistage, aerobic capacity test, originally designed for use in workplace medico-fitness screening (it is currently one of the tests recommended by the UK Home Office for entry into the British Fire Service). The test was designed to be used with a variety of step heights (15, 20, 25 and 30cms), it is now used worldwide in a variety of occupational, community and clinical settings since it can accommodate a wide range of ages and abilities and shows no gender bias. It is inexpensive, easy to standardise, highly portable and safely controlled. Many sports, leisure and health clubs use the Chester Step Test as an integral part of their health/fitness screening programmes. First published in 1998, this fifth edition has been written for use by the wide range of exercise and health professionals for whom a simple and reliable assessment of aerobic capacity is required.

Chester Treadmill Tests (CTT) (Sykes 2007) CTT-Prediction is a submaximal, multistage fitness test for the prediction of aerobic capacity to add an extra dimension of available testing procedures for those with responsibility for assessing and measuring aerobic capacity in the workplace, in sport, or in community health and fitness.  CTT-Prediction requires the subject to walk at a constant pace of 6.2km/hr for a maximum of 12 minutes – the gradient being increased by 3% every two minutes until the subject reaches 80%HRMax or an RPE of 14. CTT-Performance is an alternative protocol, currently recommended for firefighter fitness assessments in the UK Fire Service, and requires the individual to complete the full 12 minutes to achieve the recommended minimum fitness standard. Both CTT tests are best suited to subjects who are confident and able to walk briskly on a treadmill without using the support rails. It is not suitable for older and less fit individuals.

Chester Cycle Test (CCT) (Sykes 2009) follows a similar, submaximal, incremental protocol to CST and CTT. The subject pedals a stationary cycle at a given pedal speed, and the workload is increased every two minutes until the subject reaches 80%HRMax. The test is suited to a wide range of ages and fitness levels and is particularly well suited to less fit, older and overweight individuals for whom stepping and brisk treadmill walking may not recommend. Cycle ergometer fitness tests are very popular worldwide in both occupational and community health and fitness settings – normally utilising a steady state, single workload protocol. However, CCT is designed as a safely controlled, graded test with increasing workloads geared to the subject’s response to the exercise.

Chester Treadmill Police Walk Test (CTPWT) (Sykes 2016) This test is an adaptation of CTT and has been developed by Professor Kevin Sykes as an alternative test to the 15m Shuttle Run for the fitness assessment of police officers in England and Wales.

Chester Treadmill Police Run Test (CTPRT) (Sykes 2016) This test has been developed by Professor Kevin Sykes as an alternative test to the 15m Shuttle Run for the fitness assessment of police officers in England and Wales.

To perform the Chester step test, you need a step of suitable height. A method to measure heart rate and a metronome or audio beat.
To make things easy, we’ve created the Chester Step Test Kit. The kit contains everything you need to perform the Chester Step Test.

This article discusses how to select the correct step height

The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is included in the Chester Step testing protocol to give an indication of how hard the participant is finding the test.

RPE values are not included in the calculation of aerobic capacity and their collection and use as an endpoint to the test is optional. 

Unless the participant is showing signs of undue distress and fatigue, the endpoint of the Chester Step Test is normally the point when the participant reaches 85% of their maximum heart rate.

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